What’s Scarier than Jesus Calling You Overseas

When I was 10 years old, I remember my grandfather told me God might call me to be a missionary someday. He shared with me all about his friend who decided to move to South America to work at an orphanage.

“Wouldn’t that be amazing if God called you to do missionary work like that?” my grandpa asked.

To my 10 year old ears, the thought of God sending me that far away from home to serve Him was more than I could comprehend. But I had been taught from an early age that being a Christian meant surrendering everything to God, and I decided then in my little heart that if God really wanted me to be a missionary to another country someday…I would follow Him.

That was the attitude I maintained all throughout high school as I tried to discern God’s “calling” on my life, and well into college as I carefully picked out a career field. During chapel worship at my small Christian university, I would sing to Jesus with the rest of the student body,

Where You go, I’ll go

Where You stay, I’ll stay

When You move, I’ll move

I will follow You.

Visitors would come speak to us students at chapel, telling stories of how they saw lives transformed by the Gospel in third-world countries, or how desperately young people like us were needed in foreign countries to build God’s Kingdom among spiritually-lost people. I even spent 3 weeks in Cambodia seeing firsthand the work many Christian missionaries were accomplishing for Jesus.

All the while, I never forgot my grandpa’s words:

Maybe someday God will call you to be a missionary.

By the time I was halfway through college, I’d accepted that God was likely going to call me to serve overseas. I read books about social justice, watched videos about the challenges of missionary life, and registered for classes I knew would aid me in my future missionary work.

I had nearly come completely to grips with the fact I wouldn’t be living forever in America when God did something really funny.

He called me back home.

He called me back to my hometown, to my petty slice of the Midwest that I’d already in my heart parted ways with.

When it hit me I wasn’t going to be moving thousands of miles away to an exciting new place with an entirely new culture, but instead I’d be returning to cold winters, pothole-ridden roads, and obnoxious local car dealership advertisements, I went into panic mode.

God, I thought You were going to use me for something more than this!!

Truthfully, I didn’t want to return home after college. I didn’t want to settle into a place I only cared about because my family lived there. It was easier for me to think about moving to an entirely new country than to imagine living a “substandard” life in the place I’d always known.

But why?

Not because moving away would be easy. Certainly it wouldn’t be! But because my mind had been drenched with the message that only followers of Jesus who live outside American borders live the most purposeful, satisfying, and impactful lives for God. And because I’d unconsciously accepted this message, my heart had already severed ties with my hometown.

Since graduating from college and returning to the place I was born and raised, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to live a life that serves God and serves others. And for starters, it means you can serve anywhere—not just places that require a passport to access.

Although moving away to a foreign country to serve involves facing a TON of challenges, so does choosing to stay at home. It means investing heavily into family relationships—which can sometimes be the hardest to continuously invest in. It means doing your homework to find out what all is available in terms of resources in your community, and learning how to utilize them so you can efficiently help others. It means finding and committing to a local church, which usually involves getting outside your comfort zone and meeting new people in order to get established.

But some of the hardest work of all, I’ve found, is putting down roots again to replace those original roots that were severed. It’s getting yourself connected again to the people, the spirit, and the way of life in the community again, and taking pride in where you are. It’s making your city your home.

Maybe where you’ve ended up right now in life isn’t anywhere near where you dreamed God would have you. I can totally related to that. But you know what? God is pleased with you wherever you are. Because I can guarantee that where you are right now, there are people who need to know what it’s like to experience the unconditional love of Jesus. Don’t ache for someone else’s mission field; God has put you EXACTLY in the mission field He wants you in, for a purpose no one else but you could fulfill. Can you trust Him with this?

Take heart, friend. Settle in. And don’t be scared to let your roots grow down.

Because home is where your heart is, and your heart is where you choose it to be.


For more on making the tough decision to stay in your hometown, check out this amazingly encouraging blog post by Christian blogger Phylicia Masonheimer.


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